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Unforced variations: April 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 April 2012

This month’s open thread – a day late for obvious reasons… Have at it.

236 Responses to “Unforced variations: April 2012”

  1. 201
    Ron R. says:

    Thanks for the link Gavin. I think while I could disagree a bit with some of what David said I’ll not.

    We shouldn’t forget though that everything within the thin sphere of life upon this planet is interconnected and that to every action there is a reaction. Everything has an effect, even if tiny. We’ve all evolved together and though there is lots of wiggle room for individual variation there is also a pretty clear range of motion (e.g. homeothermy and poikilothermy). It may look, and even be, rough on casual observation, still there is a balance there. When things suddenly get out of that rough balance, that range of motion, is when the trouble starts. But life wants to be, and somehow those conditions which are most beneficial to the majority have dominated in earth’s history.

    SecularAnimist – Um, the Gaia Hypothesis has nothing whatever to do with the Earth’s biosphere acquiring “self-awareness” (Jungian or otherwise).

    I didn’t say it did.

  2. 202
    Ron R. says:

    Perhaps the question is, when you consider all the many many catastrophic natural disasters which have happened on and to this earth throughout the last 3 billion years of life, what is the likelihood that we would still be comfortably here on a lovely planet without the stubborn insistence of the biosphere on continuing? All those individual parts, each looking out for it’s own best interests yet somehow, because of evolution and natural selection, all fitting together into the whole like pieces of a puzzle? Look at earth’s sister planets, the odds were certainly against it.

    Well, that is until we showed up, perhaps the greatest natural disaster the earth has had to face.

  3. 203
    J Bowers says:

    Of interest:

    @richardabetts Spoke to him [Lovelock] today as it happens and he said he’s v miffed with way that interview is being spun/misrepresented by others

  4. 204
  5. 205
    Susan Anderson says:

    re Lovelock:

    That’s more or less what I had imagined he said. He should have realized that his stance would cause exactly the opposite of what he seems to have intended, which is very sad but leaves the less than optimal fallout of being usable by the unimaginably well organized denial machine and its also-rans.

  6. 206
    sidd says:

    The more i look at the latest BAS paper (Pritchard, Nature 2012) and the 2009 paper by the same, i think i want to add the East Antarctica glaciers into the Pfeffer estimate. I wonder what that does to upper bound, considering that Totten, Amery etc have speeded up, Totten by a lot. Theres a bunch of ice around there grounded submarine.


    [Response:Pfeffer's upper bound, of course, was already very liberal. Link to Pfeffer's work here: here[fixed]. –eric]

  7. 207
  8. 208
  9. 209
    John E Pearson says:

    Hank at 171 said:
    “Lovelock apparently now says a climate model from 20 years ago was the basis for his book projecting rapid collapse, and he was misinformed — but did he ever say what model he was relying on?”

    A lot of what I read goes in one eye and out the other but… I read The Vanishing Face of Gaia and my memory of it is that he dissed climate models in general and implied that he had a sort of received wisdom that was more trustworthy than the models. I think the cartoon version of his claim is that the earth system has intricacies beyond the ability of mere models to capture. I won’t be reading that book again. if you want it you can e-mail me a USPS PDF mailing label to your place (one for a flat rate envelope) and I’ll send it to you. It’s occupying valuable real estate on my bookshelf.

  10. 210
    sidd says:

    1) any addition from East Antarctica will raise Pfeffer estimate. I am looking at the supplementary spreadsheet from Pritchard, Nature 2012, and i see no E or W indication on the longitude figures. Most irritating, but I will gnaw on it.

    2) Pfeffer estimate for West Antarctica is actually on low side of the Conti/Pollard ANDRILL results ?


  11. 211
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle. I’ll pass, thanks; but most public libraries can find a use for most any book donated; try’em. (The annual surplus sale, if nothing else) You could paste a copy of, oh, the URL for some recent commentary inside the back flyleaf ….

  12. 212
    Marco says:

    Link in the response to Sidd (#206) is wrong: it contains a spelling error (an x in “straw” which shouldn’t be there).

  13. 213
    J Bowers says:

    World’s glaciers ‘out of balance’

    “When we look at the data, we can see that the glaciers are out of balance, meaning the climate has actually changed faster than the changes we’ve seen in ice area and volume,” explained Sebastian Mernild from Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, US.

    “Our data suggests the glaciers will commit about 30% of their area and about 38% of their volume to global sea level rise.”

    Dr Mernild’s group calculates this figure to be on the order of 22cm.

    “This will happen in the next decades to centuries,” he told BBC News.
    If the models are correct and further warming is seen during the next several decades and longer, the study projects that the Earth’s glaciers could ultimately lose more than half their mass.

  14. 214
    J Bowers says:

    Sea change in salinity heralds shift in rainfall

    (Reuters) – Scientists have detected a clear change in salinity of the world’s oceans and have found that the cycle that drives rainfall and evaporation has intensified more than thought because of global warming.
    Durack and team, in a study published in the journal Science, found that the water cycle intensified 4 percent from 1950-2000, twice as much as projected by climate models.
    “Once we developed the relationship between salinity and evaporation-rainfall change in models, we could then use this relationship to scale our observed salinity change estimate to provide an inferred evaporation-rainfall change estimate.”

  15. 215
  16. 216

    Interesting paper–a ‘cooling hole’ over the Eastern US:

    I’d speculate that this also affected the US ‘street view’ on GW around the turn of the millennium. But be that as it may…

  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks Kevin — that’s
    Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3349-3362, 2012
    © Author(s) 2012. … Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

    Climatic effects of 1950–2050 changes in US anthropogenic aerosols – Part 2: Climate response

    E.M. Leibensperger,*, L.J. Mickley, D.J. Jacob, W.-T. Chen, J.H. Seinfeld, A. Nenes, P.J. Adams, D.G. Streets, N. Kumar, and D. Rind

    “… using the NASA GISS general circulation model (GCM) and comparing to observed US temperature trends. Time-dependent aerosol distributions are generated from the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model applied to historical emission inventories and future projections. Radiative forcing from US anthropogenic aerosols peaked in 1970–1990 and has strongly declined since due to air quality regulations….”

    I wonder if this wording will confuse some readers:

    “forcing … peaked … and has strongly declined”

  18. 218
    sidd says:

    Re:Salinity change paper

    Didn’t Ruth Curry see this in the Atlantic some years ago ?


  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:

    See also:

    Science 27 April 2012:
    Vol. 336 no. 6080 pp. 455-458
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1212222

    Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification During 1950 to 2000

    “… robust evidence of an intensified global water cycle at a rate of 8 ± 5% per degree of surface warming. This rate is double the response projected by current-generation climate models and suggests that a substantial (16 to 24%) intensification of the global water cycle will occur in a future 2° to 3° warmer world.”

    This fits the paleo evidence for increased extreme erosion events, e.g. see generally articles citing Schmitz: Abrupt increase in seasonal extreme precipitation at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary

    Also, see

    Increased terrestrial methane cycling at the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum

    Nature 449, 332-335 (20 September 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06012

    “… The Cobham Lignite, a recently characterized expanded lacustrine/mire deposit in England, spans the onset of the PETM5 and therefore provides an opportunity to examine the biogeochemical response of wetland-type ecosystems at that time. Here we report the occurrence of hopanoids, biomarkers derived from bacteria, in the mire sediments from Cobham. We measure a decrease in the carbon isotope values of the hopanoids at the onset of the PETM interval, which suggests an increase in the methanotroph population. We propose that this reflects an increase in methane production potentially driven by changes to a warmer1, 6 and wetter climate7, 8. Our data suggest that the release of methane from the terrestrial biosphere increased and possibly acted as a positive feedback mechanism to global warming.”

  20. 220

    #220–Hank, thanks in turn. That Durack et al (2012)–the first link–seems interesting. I wonder what the ‘back-implications’ are for theory-oriented types?

    The ‘forward-implications’ seem at first blush somewhat more straightforward–or so I’d think, anyway. We’ve got stronger hydrological impacts than expected–I’m connecting this in my mind with papers like Dai 2010 on drought–and a stronger hydrological response to be considered as a signal in the overall assessment of climate change patterns. (Though I’d guess it has little to say about the causation of the warming in the first instance.)

  21. 221
    Hank Roberts says:

    Well, perhaps cautionary as a possible analogy:

    Black-Scholes: The maths formula linked to the financial crash

    “…. The equation is based on the idea that big movements are actually very, very rare. The problem is that real markets have these big changes much more often that this model predicts …. “

  22. 222
    Susan Anderson says:

    sidd, did you mean Judith?

    I don’t think it’s quite the same thing. Take a look. We laypeople may have a bit of trouble assimilating the actual science, but the substance, that the increase is closer to 8% than 4%, and the new method of measurement, is new.

  23. 223
    Jim Larsen says:

    “… robust evidence of an intensified global water cycle at a rate of 8 ± 5% per degree of surface warming. This rate is double the response projected by current-generation climate models and suggests that a substantial (16 to 24%) intensification of the global water cycle will occur in a future 2° to 3° warmer world.”

    Well, I’d have said 6 to 39%, not 16 to 24%, given the 3% * 2 degrees or 13% * 3 degrees mentioned. Changing error bounds to zero midstream seems wrong to me.

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    So what’s the albedo effect of all the plastic floating in the ocean now?


    The effect of wind mixing on the vertical distribution of buoyant plastic debris

    What if all plastic from now on were required by some United Nations mandate to be made high-emissivity and highly reflective — so when our trash goes out to sea, it reduces the planet’s albedo?

    Oh, wait, it’ll still kill everything that eats it. Unless ….
    Nah. Fail. Nevermind.

  25. 225
    Ray Ladbury says:

    This is probably off topic. However, I think the basic problem with Black-Scholes–or indeed any model–occurs when people who do not understand the model and its proper use try to apply it outside its realm of validity. In finance this is exacerbated by the fact that traders are emotional beings. Another problem with Black-Scholes is that it assumes the volitility is essentially Normal–that is why it fails for large swings.

    Frankly, I think Stewart’s criticism is unfounded. You get similar criticism any time you try to make risk calculus more analytical and evidence based.

    In climate science, we are well aware that models are imperfect. We also know that those imperfections do not preclude the usefulness–indeed, the necessity–of using those models to bound risk. If someone could teach Aunt Judy that, I might not find her blog quite such an emetic.

  26. 226
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jim, did you read the whole paper? Are you sure that’s what they did?

    I see only the abstract, quoted from that, and I didn’t read what you requoted as meaning the way you read it (a precise statement indicating a change in their analysis).

    I read that bit you quoted from the abstract as terse wording for

    [intensification somewhere in this range] for a forcing [somewhere in the 2-3 degree range]

    But the actual text would answer.

  27. 227
    Jim Larsen says:

    226 Hank asks, “Jim, did you read the whole paper? Are you sure that’s what they did?”

    Nope. I only have access to the abstract. Perhaps I’m simple-minded, but I think that the math should “work” in any short synopsis, and deviations from that should be explained. I read it as {intensification in this range} for a {forcing of 2-3 degrees} equals _____, which is a simple mathematical result. Error bars in the first number have to be carried to the final result, or there needs to be an explanation as to why it’s 8% EXACTLY, as opposed to 8 +-5.

  28. 228
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle. In a perfect world, indeed, the abstract should explain everything.

    April 27 Science,
    Ocean Salinities Reveal Strong Global Water Cycle Intensification During 1950 to 2000

    Earlier papers are online — quite statistics-heavy, beyond me. You can probably assess their math looking at those.

  29. 229
    Pat Cassen says:

    Jim, Hank – From the concluding paragraph of Durack et al.:

    Our results support a water cycle intensification rate consistent with the CC relationship under fixed relative humidity. In a future GHG-forced 2° to 3°C warmer world (31), this implies a 16 to 24% amplification of the global water cycle will occur, nearly double the CMIP3 response.

    That is, the 16 – 24% range is based on the idea that Clausius-Clapeyron controls, and not on the estimated observational/model error range.

  30. 230
  31. 231
    Brian Dodge says:

    @ Hank re modified plastic ocean junk

    The first few hundred microns of water in the ocean are essentially a black body in the infrared, and the emissivity of plastics is >0.8 for all the types I could google quickly, so wet small plastic particles are already good emitters – they just need to be reflective in the visible. It would probably be more effective to make the plastic junk biodegradeable, and contain iron, silica, phosphorus, and maybe nitrogen which would fertilize the surface to increase the carbon sequestration by diatoms.

    Looking at the geological carbon cycle, weathering of alkaline basalts which contain calcium silicates results in conversion to calcium carbonates and silica; this would lead me to suggest the use of wollastonite(calcium silicate), perhaps post wastewater phosphorus removal use at a sewer treatment plant – see
    Or maybe not – “Compared with asbestos, wollastonite fibers produced higher ROS[Reactive Oxygen Species] levels both in the PMN suspensions and in the cell-free reactive mixtures. A large amount of these ROS were not hydroxyl radicals.”
    I wonder if jellyfish get cancer?

  32. 232

    Always a shame to put a link on the open thread just before the end of the month, but what the heck. This is an interesting study in a couple of ways. First, the headline concept, the authors find localized cooling feedback which may function to provide a ‘refuge’ helping coral and other marine species to adapt to the warming environment. Second, from a ‘methods’ point of view, this is a neat example of combining GCMs with regional hi-res modeling.

  33. 233

    I usually watch CNBC in morning because I like the music, I confess the Daily Show being my main American news source, because the science is much better on a Comedy show, but also I am keen on listening to what big business does about green industries. Unfortunately for the nth time they had a guess downplaying Global Warming, saying it was just as warm 2000 years ago then now. Yikes,many in the business world are pro ignorant statements . Like the internet is made of ether. I would like to point out many many times that there would be a wide array of pristine abandoned settlements in the Canadian Arctic not placed where Inuit usually are living now a days. There is nothing North of Ellesmere and NW Archipelago islands where the ice shelves older than 2000 years are disappearing And yes Bowhead whale species are genetically distinct from Atlantic to Pacific , separated by ice for a much longer period of time, and now they are waving fins at each other. Hope a guess from RC would simply invite himself on the set and give a lashing of good science.

  34. 234
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Do you remember when you were in college? On Friday afternoons (hell, sometimes Thursday afternoons), which schools were tapping kegs out on the lawn. I’m willing to bet it wasn’t the Engineering or physics buildings.

    I remember walking by the business school and seeing all the sh*tfaced MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE as I trudged over to the physics building for another long evening of analyzing data. The MBAs learned about what you’d expect from folks willing to work more or less 3 days a week so as not to interfere with their partying schedule. As Roy Schwitters said–the revenge of the C students.

  35. 235
    dhogaza says:

    Interesting article in today’s NYTimes.

    Funny towards the end where Lindzen admits that a recent paper of his was full of stupid errors, uncovered by critics after it was published, while in the next paragraph he complains that he has trouble getting published because of the mainstream cabal controlling the major journals. His troubles couldn’t be due to his errors, apparently …

  36. 236

    Hi Ray,

    Yes I remember, so true, these were the days, of party first worry about universe later. But, there was optimism then, If they are still partying today It must be for “the world will end” rock’m before you get socked soirees. I think grandly of young people, except they are so preoccupied with everything their positive outlook gets diluted, their energy scattered and the larger issues which will concern them mostly trudge along with growing momentum. So its up to some of us to remind them, the world will not get far worse if you care. I believe that the business world has a lot to offer in response to AGW, huge potential there, lots of profits to make from clean energy, so I hope engineers will see better through clear air rather than polluted horizons.

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